Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal in Cumbria opened its doors to the public as an art gallery in 1962. It is managed by the Lakeland Arts Trust and for over half a century it has built up an exceptional collection of historic, modern and contemporary art. It also hosts an ambitious and imaginative temporary exhibition programme. The building is a Grade I-listed Georgian villa, built in 1789 and once home of Colonel George Wilson of Dallam Tower, on the banks of the River Kent in the historic town of Kendal, gateway to the Lake District. After a large redevopment, it is due to reopen in 2023 on its 61st anniversary.
Downstairs, historic watercolours, an important collection of 18th-century portraits by celebrated artist George Romney, and an enormous and mysterious painting of prominent local figure, Lady Anne Clifford, are displayed in furnished period rooms that reflect the Palladian architecture of the building.
Upstairs, the more contemporary white-walled galleries are used for Abbot Hall’s ambitious programme of temporary exhibitions as well as displays from the extensive permanent collection, including works by Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Kurt Schwitters, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Paula Rego, Sean Scully, Frank Auerbach and many others. Over the years, the Contemporary Art Society has been instrumental in allowing the gallery to extend the scope of its collections, with artists acquired including Barbara Hepworth, Keith Vaughan, Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Nash, Richard Wentworth, Raphael Hefti and Charmaine Watkiss.